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Inside Vegas - Steve Miller

Steve Miller is a former Las Vegas City Councilman. In 1991, the readers of the Las Vegas Review Journal voted him the "Most Effective Public Official" in Southern Nevada. Visit his website at:

Holiday Shenanigans?
INSIDE VEGAS by Steve Miller
December 6, 2004

Mr. Rizzolo has a good name in the community. -- Judge Nancy Saitta, 03/15/01

Judge Nancy M. Saitta
accepted over $9,000
in contributions from
Rizzolo and friends

I told her (Moncrief) early on that if Steve Miller is involved with this in any way, then I'm out. She assured me that Steve Miller was not involved during the campaign. She gave me the indication that she never has been involved at any time with him. -- Tom Letizia, Rick Rizzolo's advertising representative, 06/19/2003

Oscar Goodman talks on phone to a reporter
as campaign coordinator Tom Letizia listens

We're not putting other sexually oriented businesses on trial. I don't know that our industry
is that big of a problem. -- Councilwoman Janet Moncrief on shutting down Rizzolo's biggest competitor, 09/17/04

Councilwoman Moncrief and attorney
Rick Wright at her Initial Arraignment
before Judge Saitta, September 9, 2004

LAS VEGAS - Its not exactly the aroma of chestnuts roasting on an open fire. The odor currently permeating the desert air smells a lot more fishy than traditional Holiday fare. At a time like this when our minds are full of good cheer, its always easier to slip one by on us, and that might be our fate come December 15, if we don't pay attention to our sense of smell.

Back during the Spring 2003 Las Vegas City Council election, I was promised by then-candidate Janet Moncrief that if elected, her first order of business would be to bring an end to the bloodshed at Rick Rizzolo's Crazy Horse Too topless bar. She promised me that she would sponsor a license revocation (Show Cause) action as her first official council duty.

I was thrilled to think that if I helped her get elected, I could help her stop the credit card rip offs and beatings at the infamous strip bar, the subject of too many INSIDE VEGAS columns. She also went so far as to promise me the position of Chief Ward Liaison in her City Hall office if I helped her campaign. Though I was overqualified for the City Hall job, I gladly accepted her offer in advance of the election knowing I could provide her advice as to how to put together an effective Show Cause action, something I had done many times in past years. I also wanted to get back into local public service, something I coveted for over 25 years of my life.

After working every day for almost four months on her tumultuous campaign, Moncrief emerged the victor on June 7, and I soon found myself watching in horror as she transformed into a clone of the man she replaced, Mike McDonald, the subject of an FBI investigation into political corruption involving strip clubs including the Crazy Horse.

On June 13, 2003, Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist John L. Smith revealed that Moncrief had hired Tom Letizia, Rizzolo's "advertising representative," to be her "transition team leader." Meanwhile, she told Michael Squires of the Review-Journal, "I'm not going to hire Steve Miller, I don't even know him."

Letizia is best known for raising $1.5 million for the unopposed reelection of Mayor Oscar Goodman, the former criminal defense attorney for a number of Rizzolo's associates. Letizia also produced a July 3 after-election fund raiser for Moncrief, even though she didn't need the money according to her falsified contribution and expense reports.

After reading Smith's column and Moncrief's remarks, I knew I'd been duped. I couldn't help but feel like a horse that had been ridden hard and put away wet. I immediately decided to turn state's evidence to try to stop her from doing our town any further damage.

Because of my efforts, on August 6, 2004, Moncrief was indicted on five felony counts. She was arraigned on Sept. 9 in the District Court of Judge Nancy M. Saitta. The charges include filing false campaign finance reports and perjury, each carrying a five year prison sentence if proven. I am the state's key witness. (Click here for the full story)

Moncrief's transition team leader-cum-Crazy Horse Too advertising representative-cum-mayoral campaign coordinator Tom Letizia is happily married to the daughter of Fred Glusman. Mr. Glusman on April 10, 2002, donated $5,000 to Judge Nancy M. Saitta's reelection campaign, then on June 11, he donated a "Special Event" for her at his mobbed-up Piero's Restaurant.

The amount and source of the proceeds generated at the Piero's event were not delineated on the judge's financial disclosures and were not required to be under Nevada law. As is customary and legal in Nevada politics, the public is not entitled to know who attends private fundraising events as long as the money is accounted for in campaign finance reports. Altogether, Judge Saitta received a little over $120,000 in campaign contributions in the year 2002.

But that's not all. Glusman's best customer Rick Rizzolo donated $4,000 to Judge Saitta's first campaign in 1998. Together, its estimated that Glusman and Rizzolo gave Judge Saitta way over $9,000 in campaign contributions and fundraisers during her six years on the bench. Of course, that doesn't prove a quid-pro-quo because many elected officials have high ethical standards, and many campaign contributors want nothing in return other than honest government.

But paybacks do occur in Sin City.

On January 4, 2004, Councilwoman Moncrief issued a press release challenging her council colleagues to defend "honest government" and shut down Cheetah's, one of Rizzolo's closest competitors.

Then in September, she was at it again. Moncrief led the charge to shut down another close-by Rizzolo competitor, Treasures. In the meantime, Rizzolo's business -- moribund since the September 2001 beating of Kirk Henry -- began to reinvigorate.

While Moncrief was trying to shut down Rizzolo's competitors, the bloodshed continued at the Crazy Horse Too, also located in her ward. When asked if she was singling out Treasures, Moncrief blatantly told reporters "We're not putting other sexually oriented businesses on trial. I don't know that our industry is that big of a problem."

"That big of a problem?" Dateline NBC on August 8, let us know just how big a problem we have by doing a segment on the violence at Rizzolo's place of business. Even after millions watched the shocking program, Mayor Goodman told a reporter, "I did not see that." Councilwoman Moncrief was unavailable for comment.

Moncrief's transparency inspired a recall drive that effectively used several INSIDE VEGAS articles as ammunition. The articles reminded voters of the councilwoman's new-found friendship with Rizzolo's cronies. The recall petition is expected to exceed the minimum number of required signatures and a special election is anticipated as soon as January. This, while her February 7, 2005, criminal trial approaches.

Now to that fishy smell.

Moncrief's criminal defense attorney Richard Wright is well known for defending wayward politicians. Wright filed a WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS petition on her behalf that was scheduled to be heard on November 15 in Judge Saitta's court, but the hearing was continued after Nevada Attorney General Brian Sandoval filed a 60 page OPPOSITION TO DEFENDANTS PRETRIAL WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS. This may be a blessing for Moncrief because it postponed the hearing until December 15, smack in the middle of the Holiday rush.

Attorney Rick Wright defending
ex-councilman Mike McDonald

The prosecution of Janet Moncrief may be Sandoval's last official duty as Nevada's Attorney General because he was recently appointed to a federal judgeship to begin in April.

Attorney General Sandoval
         (Las Vegas SUN)

The most common usage of a WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS, something usually filed by persons serving prison sentences, is to appeal state criminal convictions to the federal courts when the petitioner believes his or her constitutional rights were violated by state procedure. Mr. Wright's petition is an unusual use of such a WRIT because the petitioner is not incarcerated. Moncrief was indicted by the unanimous vote of the state Grand Jury, booked, but not jailed.

The Councilwoman is so hopeful that Wright's petition will rid her of the criminal indictments, that on December 1, she told a reporter " indictment might be thrown out Dec.15." If this occurs, it would certainly bolster her chances of retaining her office in the January recall election! Based on the interesting connection between Judge Saitta, Tom Letizia, and Rick Rizzolo, she might just be right.

However, I must admit that my theory that the judge is somehow beholden to Moncrief's supporters is somewhat flimsy. But sometimes circumstantial evidence wins trials; people are usually judged by the company they keep; and sometimes judges are less than objective when big campaign money is at stake.

This is the judge who in 2001 made Rizzolo's next door neighbor Buffalo Jim Barrier pay Rizzolo's attorneys $4,500 because Barrier's lawyer showed up late for court.

This is the judge who said "Mr. Rizzolo has a good name in the community" just before dismissing a racketeering lawsuit against him on the same day she sanctioned Barrier $4,500.

This is the same judge who instructed the jury that Scott David Fau's 1995 beating at the hands of Crazy Horse bouncers had nothing to do with his "blunt force trauma" death two hours later. Fau's widow could not afford to hire a pathologist to explain to the jury how such injuries can cause death hours after head trauma. And though there was a purported eyewitness to the event, Judge Saitta allowed Rizzolo to sue the witness for defamation in a separate case assigned to her court. To no one's surprise, the sued witness failed to show up to testify at the Fau wrongful death trial. When Mrs. Fau's attorney asked to play a taped statement from the witness, Judge Saitta denied the request and the jury had no choice but to rule that no wrongful death occurred.

But who am I to second guess an esteemed member of the Vegas judiciary?

As far fetched as a WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS dismissal of Moncrief's five felony counts might be, it can be granted at the whim of a District Court judge. Reporters will be closely watching the December 15 hearing to see if this occurs. If not, I anxiously await being called to Judge Saitta's witness stand on or about February 7, to testify in STATE OF NEVADA vs JANET MONCRIEF.


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